Last week, I got a manicure. I picked my favorite new color—Chinchilly—a dark taupe/gray that really suits me quite well since I am all about the grays. As if getting a random, just-because midweek manicure weren’t already a bit indulgent, I topped this indulgence off with another indulgence: a back rub. A very efficient, same-time back rub. Yes, that’s right. While a Manicure Lady was buffing my beleaguered nails, Massage Man manipulated my mangled muscles. I am not telling you this because I have run out of things to say. I am not telling you this to offer a window into a spoiled existence. No. There is a point. One that has nothing to do with self-pampering.
Ready for said point? Sure you are. I don’t know whether I’ve been sleeping in contorted positions or whether it’s the ceaseless lugging of two robust kids, or that vast computer bag, but the massage was painful. It hurt. I know many people are of the school that a massage should hurt because then it means something is being accomplished. But I’m not a student of that school. I look to massage to help me do something I’ve forgotten how to do: relax.
There was nothing remotely relaxing about those burrowing fingers (and fingernails). No. My head was “resting” in the head “rest,” and I was thankful for this because the Massage Man could not see that my eyes were watering. Yes, tears. It hurt that much.
And yet. I said nothing. Nothing.
At some point, I think Massage Man could tell I was uncomfortable because he asked, “Are you okay? Too hard?”
And still. This time I said something. “Yes, I’m okay. I’m fine. That’s fine.”
And so he kept going with the “therapeutic” torture. And when our time was up, I stood up. I forced a decorous smile and said thank you and handed him a tip.
Are you still squinting out there, trying to locate the point? Sorry. Here it is:
Why is it so hard for so many of us to say, “That hurts”?
I am not just talking about finding our voice when in the orbit of an aggressive masseuse. No. I am talking about life. Why is it so hard to speak up, to articulate our emotional pain, to indicate when something or someone hurts us?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that I have been hurling that trite childhood lesson at Toddler a lot these days. “Use your words,” I tell her this when she is frustrated because her sister has taken her toy or chocolate milk or when she is upset about something a bit more complicated. Use your words.
I tell her this and I mean it. Words are powerful things. Here on this blog, I weave words together and this makes me very happy.
Recently, someone really upset me. This person didn’t do anything truly vicious or conspicuously conniving. I don’t think this person intended to make me sad. I’m not even sure this person has any clue that I was (and still am) sad. But things this person did and didn’t do, said and didn’t say, hurt me. And I didn’t say anything. No, I rolled around in my hurt, letting it seep in, and then sulked away.
Now, I am not a super-confrontational person, but I am not a doormat either. More often than not, I say something, something diplomatic when I feel so inclined. Customarily, I do not sweep things under that proverbial carpet. I am not one to let things fester.
But. Here I am. Being a doormat. Sweeping things under that soiled existential carpet. Letting stuff fester. Not using my words. Rather, using my words, different ones, to bemoan the fact that I don’t know how to use my words when they matter most. (Uh oh. I just had the thought that maybe we bloggers are the biggest cowards of all insofar as we type and type and type because we are too scared to actually say these things aloud to people we know and love? I don’t like this thought, so I will ignore it. For now.)
Why is it so hard, so impossible sometimes, to say two simple words: That hurts? Maybe because saying these words isn’t so simple at all? Maybe it’s because we think we somehow deserve the pain? Maybe it is because we are afraid of graying blue skies? Maybe because we think there is something instructive in feeling pain, that there is something to be gained? Maybe it’s because we believe, if unconsciously, that fleeting sadness is like temporarily sore back muscles, hard to weather in the moment but a means to something greater and truer and less twisted?
(I told you this wasn’t just a post about nails.)
Why is it so hard (for me, for all of us) to utter those two simple words? And if it isn’t hard for you to say these words, please share your wisdom with the rest of us.